A basic brick residence with wood panelling, open windows, and a silver pickup vehicle parked in front of it can be found around 25 minutes north of the Florida border, next to the entrance to a United States Army installation, and not very far from anything else.
Isolated and unassuming from the outside, the place is filled with the paraphernalia of a creative life that has been carefully constructed and expertly art-directed. There are stacks of VHS tapes (“Gummo,” “Carrie,” “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”), old TVs to play them on, creepy dolls with drawn-on face tattoos, dusty books about religion and sexuality, yellowing vintage photographs, animal bones, human teeth, and thrift store clothes scattered everywhere The only wardrobe that looks orderly is the one that’s packed with flowy Victorian nightgowns and Gunne Sax-style dresses in white and cream.
Inside there are two younger sisters that reside there. One of them is employed at the convenience store down the road. The second person, who goes by the stage name Ethel Cain, has a good chance of becoming a pop sensation in the near future, or at the very least, a contemporary representation of a figure who is becoming more prevalent in current times and that may more correctly be described as a cult celebrity.
While this is going on, Cain does not have a manager and has no intention of trying to make a hit on TikTok or Spotify. Although the songs on “Preacher’s Daughter” are soaring in sound and intention, they are purposefully slow, hazy, and dense, frequently stretching past the six-minute mark before exploding into an out-of-style guitar solo or spooky instrumental passage. Although “Preacher’s Daughter” was largely written, recorded, and produced alone in her bedroom, it features a number of songs that are soaring in sound and intention.
Cain also insists on living in the middle of nowhere, which allows her to more easily drive her vehicle about barefoot, as well as hang out in abandoned fields and graveyards, as well as beneath crumbling bridges. Before moving to the countryside of Alabama, she lived in a random Indiana hamlet of less than 2,000 people, where she leased an abandoned church.
Cain, on the other hand, is determined to bring the industry to her world and has been given the confidence to do so by a shrinking monoculture as well as an influential generation of internet-first auteurs who have shaped culture in their image via tenacity and vision.
Cain was born and reared in the little town of Perry, Florida, which is located on the Big Bend of the Florida Panhandle and was named for a Confederate commander. Cain recalls her childhood as being both gorgeous and torturous. She was raised in a Southern Baptist household, but none of her three attempts at baptism were successful, and her neighbours referred to her as a “satanic witch.” As a result, she felt as like she was being suffocated by her upbringing.
She turned the lows of Americana and fantasies of freedom into a caustic and self-aware Southern Gothic persona that she describes as “a mixture of my favourite final girls in horror movies and Billy Graham.” But she also clung to the culture, turning the lows of Americana and fantasies of freedom into a character.
Her aesthetic goals, on the other hand, are lofty and comparable to those of contemporary iconoclasts such as Tyler, the Creator and Lana Del Rey. These artists strike a balance between the resource-intensive spectacles of pop giants and the uncompromised creative autonomy of indie outsiders. In an ideal world, Cain would stockpile influence and cachet until she is able to effectively vanish into the job that she has meticulously planned.
Cain was shielded from secular culture for the most part, so she spent most of her time listening to Christian music or Gregorian chants and singing in the church choir. However, whenever she had the opportunity, she also immersed herself in her grandparents’ collection of scary movies and true crime shows on television. “I spent my whole life in this strange little bubble. “The only perspective I had into the real world was this violent, graphic media, full of drugs and death,” she recalled, tracing the origins of her continuing interest with the murky and terrible underbelly of the idyllic and local.
Cain was aware from the beginning that she was distinct. She came out to her mother when she was 12 years old and subsequently participated in religious counselling as a result of her sexual orientation. She said that her therapist was the only person in her whole life to ever reassure her that she would not be spending eternity in hell.
After becoming more estranged and rebellious in the face of her family’s traditional values, she discovered refuge and inspiration in the internet pop music fandom after hearing a song by Florence + the Machine played over the closing credits of a movie. It was almost as if a doorway had been made available. She started her life as a nonbinary person when she was a teenager and spent time on Twitter and Tumblr.
Cain relocated to Tallahassee with the intention of enrolling in the film department at Florida State University when she received her high school diploma. Prior to this, she had found some real-world liberty in the theatrical programme of a nearby community college. Instead, she sank into a pit of depression, where she frequented goth parties, experimented with heavy drugs, and confused her gender. She experimented with producing dark, obscene electronic music under the aliases Atlas and White Silas, music that reflected the condition of her psyche at the time.